Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Accountability Monday: 3/12/18

After an almost three-month hiatus, Accountability Monday is back! ... a day late, as usual. 😉

It feels like I've taken a long break from training this winter- part of this is my normal routine. After a marathon, I usually need at least a month of easy, no-training-plan running. But it seems like my month has turned into almost eight weeks of not really doing anything. Work is partly to blame but so is a lack of motivation.

With this training hiatus, I can definitely notice the difference in how I feel every day both physically and mentally. My body aches, it feels like I've gained 10 pounds, and I feel sluggish and slow.

So, with only eight weeks until the Steel Challenge (Pittsburgh 5k + half marathon), it's time for me to regroup, refocus, and set myself up for success with a training plan that will help me cross both finish lines feeling in-shape and awesome.

Excited for this anniversary bling! Source.
Saturday: 3.1 mile run, 11:59 overall pace
Sunday: 2.5 mile run, 12:19 overall pace

Speed work, strength training, and cross training must be included in my training plan for the next eight weeks-  I definitely have my work cut out for me this spring!

Best Run
Saturday's 5k was actually really enjoyable, considering that I hadn't run in over 14 days (yikes!). I decided to go off-road and run through the fields surrounding my house instead of the normal roads/sidewalks and it was honestly quite fun having a change of scenery.

Bravo Moment
I ran without a shirt on this weekend when I got overheated and didn't totally hate how I looked. That's a bravo in my book any day!

Mud means spring is coming soon, right? Right?! 

Quote of the Week
I'm building towards that comeback every damn day.

How do you stay motivated to training/healthy living when life gets in the way?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Transitions: A Non-Running Life Update

Good morning, friends!

As you may have noticed, I've been a little absent on the blog and on social media for the last few weeks. Lately, my life has felt insanely crazy busy and I haven't been able to prioritize running, working out, or updating here about any of my training- or lack thereof.

But there are a few good reasons why...

Long story short, I got a new job!

And I'm going back to school!

That's right, in just a few years, I might change this blog's name to Dr. Sparkly Runner 😍

Long story long, the grad school thing has been in the works for quite a while. I applied and interviewed for the program last summer and found out I was accepted in August. I will schedule classes next month and now that it feels really real, I wanted to put it out there to the world: this fall, I will start the coursework for the Doctor of Education in Administration and Leadership Studies program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania! *cue happy dance*

As for the new job, that happened rather quickly and has caused a lot of positive disruption in my life. For the last two weeks, I have been preparing to move myself and my office across campus to my new role: Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct. This move involves me straddling two jobs for a bit and in the coming weeks, there will still be a few transitional items that I'll need to complete (from my previous role) in addition to fulfilling the obligations of the new role.

Because of the added stress of a mid-semester job change, I've barely had time to run or work out. In fact, it's been TEN DAYS since my last run. UGH. Even though this new role is amazing for my professional development and I am absolutely thrilled to serve the university I work for in this capacity, the transition has really thrown off my running and training game!

And because of the grad school thing, I've got to take a hard look at my calendar for the next few years and figure out what races I can/want to do and which races/training plans will fit into my class and new work schedule.

All of these changes are super positive. But they still disrupt the normal pattern and rhythm of my life, my running, and my training. It's taken me years to develop a manageable routine of healthy eating and physical activity that keeps me at a healthy weight and in half-marathon/marathon shape.

I'm nervous... about being able to stick to my healthy routines.

I'm excited... about being back in the classroom and developing my skills as an administrator.

I'm anxious... about making a smooth transition into my new job.


I'm confident... that I can handle all these new changes, maintain my healthy lifestyle, and still train for marathons. Or the 2019 Goofy Challenge. 😍

"...and it will, too." One of my absolute favorite quotes from a movie.

So that's what's been going on in my world. Hopefully, I get a new rhythm going here soon- the Pittsburgh Half Marathon is less than eight weeks away and I'm hoping to crush my half marathon course record in my fifth Steel Challenge weekend!

What's new with you?! 

What new beginnings are you looking forward to?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Final Thoughts: 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend

Now that we are almost a full two months post-WDW Marathon Weekend, I feel like I can adequately sum up my thoughts about the weekend now that some time has passed.

I try not to write about a race weekend immediately after because I'm usually still so pumped up on endorphins that I can't objectively think about the experience to adequately review it.

There were things I absolutely loved about this year's Marathon Weekend and some things that made me second guess doing this race weekend again.

In no particular order, here are my final thoughts on 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend!

Absolutely Awesome Things

Seeing friends is always the highlight of any runDisney weekend but this year, it felt like we got to spend a lot of time with several of our friends that we only get to see a few times a year. It was really such a highlight of the weekend.

Breakfast at Floatworks with friends is the very best way to recover from a marathon.
Some of us are way excited to be running 26.2 miles.

Running down Main Street USA and through the castle is magical. Running down Main Street USA and through the castle twice in two days is super magical. I really loved all of the course changes this year that took us through the front gates of Magic Kingdom and I especially liked how much more time we spent in MK during the full.

Good morning, MK!

Exploring Pandora was definitely a cool part of the weekend. We also got to ride both new rides at AK and discovered a favorite new bar, Nomad Lounge.

Mugs and matching magic bands are mandatory in Pandora.

Y'all already know I love Altra running shoes, but WDW Marathon Weekend proved to me how vital having the right shoes can be. I wore two different pairs of the Paradigm for the half and full and in between the races I wore the HIIT XT (cross-trainers). I credit my Altras with helping me make it through the weekend with strong, pain-free feet.

So many of my favorite things in one photo.

Less Awesome Things

Y'all. These courses were so crowded. There were times during the full when I felt like we were running in wall-to-wall people. At one point, I stopped at a medical tent to get some biofreeze and was nearly bowled over by all the folks crowding around the table. I don't know if there were more runners on the marathon course this year or if I'm just getting too old for this crap, but it felt really, really crowded throughout much of the race.

And....we've got walkers, five across. UGH.

That expo was not a great experience. Long lines everywhere, confusion on where to go, multiple buildings for merchandise, bibs, etc. Matthew and I had such a bad taste in our mouth from this expo; it made us reconsider the entire weekend.

No merch is worth waiting hours for.

The weather in Florida in the winter can be unpredictable but this year's was exceptionally crappy. With temps in the 30's and a real feel in the 20's, we might as well had just stayed in Pennsylvania and ran with all our winter weather gear! This is the second year in a row it's been cold- we're due for a weekend of good running weather.

You should never have to wear a hat in FLORIDA. 

So... will be back for WDW Marathon Weekend in 2019?

Already dreaming of 2019 bling.

Maybe... probably. :-)

There are a few things up in the air for us personally (which I'll detail in another post soon!) so we can't quite say yet what January 2019 will look like.

But in all likelihood, we'll be back for another WDW Marathon Weekend- at least we want to. During the marathon this year, I had a strong feeling that I wanted to run another marathon, and run it for time. It's been almost three years since I PR'd in that distance and I can feel it in my heart- I've got one more 'fast' marathon in me. Will it be the WDW full next year?

We'll just have to wait and see!

Did you run during WDW Marathon Weekend? What was your experience like?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Race Recap & Review: 2018 Unofficial Castaway Cay Challenge

Last month, the day after the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon, Matthew and I boarded the Disney Dream to complete the second half of our WDW Marathon Weekend trip: a four night cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay.

As you may recall, Matthew and I decided to book the Castaway Cay Challenge cruise in late October so we'd already missed the registration for the official Castaway Cay Challenge race.

A little background (because this can be confusing, lol)- to run the Castaway Cay Challenge (a race that takes place at 7:30 am on Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island), you must register for and run at least one race during WDW Marathon Weekend, book your room on the Disney Dream for the cruise directly after the marathon, then register for the Castaway Cay Challenge race. This race was sold out by the time we booked our room on the cruise so we opted to do the "free" (included in the cost of your cruise) 5k at 9 am, directly following the official challenge race.

In essence, we were doing the challenge- one or more races at WDW Marathon Weekend + a 5k on the island- we just weren't doing the official race with the bling, the shirt, and the earlier start time. We did the official Castaway Cay Challenge last year and while we loved the race, we were ok skipping all the extras this year.

Ok, back to the recap!

Monday morning, our muscles still aching from the marathon the day before, Matthew and I started the most favorite part of our trip- cruising on the beautiful Disney Dream!

Hello, Donald!

Our first two days on the ship (embarkation day and Nassau day) were spent how we usually spend them- lounging around and enjoying all the Dream has to offer: we tried out the Rainforest in Senses Spa, had dinner at the adults-only restaurant Palo, swam in the Quiet Cove pool, did a Whiskey Tasting (which was super cool, by the way!), met lots of characters, and enjoyed coffee on our giant verandah each morning.

Somehow, we were put in an ADA (handicapped-accessible) room so the room itself and its verandah were absolutely enormous! We are absolutely spoiled for any future cruises :-)

This is maybe 1/3 of our verandah deck.
Oh hey, Punzie!

What a Goof!

The morning we docked at Castaway Cay, we were up and on our verandah by 7 am. We actually were able to hear music from the start line about three quarters of a mile from where the ship was docked.

Around 7:30, we heard the race begin and I can tell you will all honesty, I had absolutely zero FOMO (fear of missing out). Matthew and I chatted, sipped coffee, and then went down to Evolution (the biggest bar/club on the ship) to get ready for our race which would begin at 9 am.

Just chilling on our deck with a private island behind me, NBD.

Matthew and I at the start of the "regular" Castaway Cay 5k.

Because the challenge runners used a different course than the regular 5k route, our race followed the challenge course because there wasn't enough time to switch over the courses in between the races. Basically, we followed the same route as the official challengers, we just didn't have the character stops during our race.

I was happy to see that the mile markers and inflatable start/finish line was still up- it made our race feel a little more special.

Matthew and I ran this race using the same intervals we'd used all weekend; 30 seconds of running followed by 30 seconds of walking. About a quarter of a mile into the race, one of our table mates from dinner, Dameon, came up beside us. He'd just run the challenge race and was running the regular 5k as a bonus race!

Dameon had never done intervals before and while he was just curious at first, after hanging with us for the whole race, I think we might have converted him to a Galloway runner :-)

Mile one.

Mile two.


I lead us the majority of this race and I tried to push the pace during the run intervals. We ended the race with negative splits and an overall pace of 11:39- how's that for tired legs that just ran 39.3 miles in two days?!

After the race, Matthew and I grabbed drinks at our favorite island spot, the Heads-Up Bar, and then took a ton of medal pics with the ship in the background. By then it had started pouring rain so we headed back to the ship earlier than we'd wanted to.

Before the rain...

All the creative points to Matthew for this shot.

I will never tire of looking at this bling. Or this ship.

Overall, did we miss not doing the official challenge race? Not one bit. We had just as much fun doing the regular 5k and then enjoying the island.

Rainy days on the island are better than sunny days anywhere else :-)

Will we do this race/cruise again? Stay tuned- I've got another recap coming with my overall thoughts on the whole WDW Marathon Weekend.

Have a great week, friends!

Friday, January 26, 2018

WDW Marathon Weekend 2018: Part IV

This recap will cover the WDW Marathon. Check out the posts below for recaps of the expo, 5k, 10k, Cigna Blogger Event, and WDW Half Marathon!

Matthew and I woke up marathon morning and did the same routine we'd done for the three previous mornings: crawl out of bed at 2:30 am, take cold medicine and Airborne, dress for the race + 100 layers (fleece pajamas and the bathrobe for me), and get on a bus to the start by 3:30 am. 

As we got off the bus and headed towards the bag check security line (which was incredibly long- much longer than the day before) we ran into Ian and his wife Shari whom we first "met" online while training for Dopey four years ago! The runDisney world is a small one sometimes. 

Good morning, friends!

It was great to catch up with Ian and Shari while we waited in the security line- it took us almost 20 minutes to get through! I'm not sure why the wait was so much longer for the marathon than the other days- I think we may have just arrived at the most popular time. 

We eventually got through the line, said our goodbyes to Ian and Shari, and then went off to meet up with our running ohana at our usual spot. I also picked up some KT tape from Katherine because I hadn't brought enough down with me. I realized I was going to be short the night before and messaged our ohana to see if anyone had any. Sweet Katherine was at Disney Springs and offered to buy me some- what a fantastic internet friend! :-)

"Some people are worth melting freezing for." ❤

After lots of hugs and good lucks, we all headed back to our respective corrals. Matthew, Jim, and I were all in F again so we walked back together. 

While it was technically warmer this morning than the previous morning, it actually started to feel colder when we were back in the corrals. I was so glad I'd kept the bathrobe for the marathon- it worked really well to keep the wind at bay while we were waiting to start. 

I call this look "runner chic."

Matthew and Jim sitting on mylar blankets...

...and Matthew under a mylar blanket.

Similar to the day before, the mini wave system worked well and we were moving towards the start in a somewhat continuous movement. One of the benefits of being in the back-of-the-pack is that you have your pick of literally hundreds of discarded clothes, gloves, hats, blankets, mylars, etc. because so many people in front of you already discarded their throw-aways. 

Matthew had given his gloves to our friend Amelia who had forgotten hers, so I was searching for a discarded pair for him. I was also starting to get hungry and had already eaten my mile five snack- whoops! So, as I was searching for gloves along the side of the corrals, I found a nature valley granola bar (still wrapped!) and scooped it up for later :-) Then I found the BEST gloves for Matthew- they were red and green, glittery, Christmas, finger-less gloves that had a little mitten part that you could pull down over your fingertips if they got cold. The best part? One glove said "naughty" and the other glove said "nice" :-)

Jim picked up a fuzzy blue bathrobe for himself and while I considered grabbing something extra, I ultimately decided that what I had on was probably enough to keep me warm. 

Only 26.2 miles to go.

This time, we ended up at the very front of our mini wave so we were quite close to the starting line. As Jim and Matthew and I talked, Jim decided he was going to stay with us as long as possible- our pace of 13:30-14:30 minute miles and intervals of 30:30 seemed like a good plan for him as he was under-trained for this marathon. We hadn't planned on running the race together but this ended up being such a good decision- more on that later. 

Before we could talk too much about race strategy, our fireworks went off, our countdown from Mickey hit zero, and we were off on a 26.2 mile adventure through all four WDW theme parks!

Run 26.2 miles, gain 9.4 ounces. This billboard was just a few yards away from the start line. 

The three of us quickly fell into a rhythm and order. This race definitely felt more crowded than the half marathon so several times, we formed a single-file line: Matthew, me, Jim. Since Matthew is better at keeping us at an even pace, he lead for most of the race. 

We slowly followed our steps from yesterday towards MK, keeping a steady pace of about 14:30-15:00 minute miles. Our goal was just to finish the marathon and not worry about how long it took us. Secretly, I hoped to finish this race in around 6:30. I had trained for 13:30 minute/mile (which is a 6 hour marathon pace) and knew I could beat my course record- 6:32, from my first marathon. But, I know the marathon is a fickle beast- you can never predict what can happen over the course of so many miles. 

Mostly silently, Matthew, Jim, and I ran. We talked occasionally- usually to yell "walking!" so everyone in our group could hear it- with so many folks using intervals, watches were going off every 5 seconds and sometimes it's hard to hear which one is your interval!

I ditched the bathrobe around mile two. As we got closer to MK, I started to get warm but I was wary about letting go of my fleece pajama top- the wind was brutal and the temperature wasn't necessarily going to increase by much while we were on the course. I asked Matthew if he was still cold. He was, so he wore the top backward for the next few miles. :-)

He rocked this look.

We entered MK the same way we did for the half and it was still as magical. We ran down Main Street- still magical- and grabbed a selfie- also magical. We ran through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland before making a pit stop at our favorite and never-crowded bathrooms- right next to Pinocchio Village Haus. 

Just strutting down Main Street in my PJs.

Park #1.

Double jazz hands FTW!

After we exited the park, we made our way through the scenic water treatment plant, smelling exactly like you'd think it would, on our way to Animal Kingdom. 

We grabbed a few more pictures in AK but declined to wait in line for Expedition Everest. Jim was tracking the balloon ladies (keeping a 16 minute pace- you need to stay in front of them so you don't get swept) and they were only about 2 miles behind us. Our pace had dropped a bit from the bathroom stop and a quick mid-race KT tape application so we had to keep moving. One day I'll ride Everest during the marathon, one day. 

Welcome to Animal Kingdom!

Well hello there Florida sun! Nice to finally see you!

Once we left AK, we started the worst part of the marathon: the dreaded stretch of miles that consists of never-ending highway and winds through never-ending Wide World of Sports (WWOS)- basically miles 14-23. I have zero photos on my phone from this part of the course because it took all my energy to stay upright. Seriously, this is the part of the marathon that is TOUGH- mentally and physically. 

Surprisingly, we actually picked up the pace during this section. Jim was leading us and his strategy was, "this part sucks, let's get through it faster." After what felt like forever in WWOS, we finally got out towards the highway that would take us to Hollywood Studios. 

Looking like Joy but feeling like Sadness.

Badass Matthew, leading us along.

I look like I know what I'm doing here.

Look. At. Those. Curls. ❤

Around mile 22, we were all feeling the fatigue of the marathon and all the miles we'd run in the few days before. Jim started to slowly fall behind us. After a few run walk intervals, Jim was really far behind us. 

We waited for him to catch up and asked him what he wanted to do- should we stay with him? Did he need to walk the last few miles? Should we go on ahead without him? He told us it was up to us- we could decide to stay with him or forge ahead. 

Here's the thing- there's a reason we call our friend group "ohana." "Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind." 

We'd just run 22 miles together, no way in hell were we splitting up now! We continued on, changing up the intervals a bit to 1 minute walking, 30 seconds running. That's why I love the run/walk method so much- it's incredibly flexible and can be adapted mid-race. 

Soon enough, we were entering Hollywood Studios. I was excited for two reasons- #1: chocolate! runDisney always gives out chocolate just past mile 23. #2: We'd see Jim's wife Kellee and their adorable son Trent in just a few minutes. Fun fact- Trent was our "baby Stitch" character stop at last year's Pop Art Half Marathon!

All smiles for friendly faces. Photo courtesy of Kellee.

Hollywood or BUST!

Seeing Kellee and Trent was just the boost we needed to finish out this marathon. We left Hollywood Studios, rounded Disney's Boardwalk, and made our final victory lap around World Showcase. 

Special mile 25 recognition for the 25th anniversary.
We seem to be missing a few dwarfs.

It is SO good to see you, golf ball!

We finally saw that gospel choir at mile 26 and we knew we were just a few minutes away from finishing the 2018 WDW Marathon. No matter how much pain I felt in that moment, it was all somehow equaled out to the joy that marathon #4 would soon be in the books. 


We did it- we were marathoners once again. Matthew finished his third Dopey Challenge and TENTH marathon. I finished my fourth marathon and first unofficial Goofy Challenge. Jim finished his fifth Dopey Challenge. We. Freaking. Did. It.

Sometimes I have great finisher photos and sometimes I have finisher photos
that accurately depict the suffering that is the marathon. 

This guy is my hero.

After we collected our medals, snack boxes, gear check bags, and commemorative Mickey ears (!!!) we snapped a few photos. Matthew gave me his Goofy Challenge medal because he is quite possibly the sweetest, most wonderful man on the planet. 

We met back up with Kellee, Trent, and Jim's parents and our friend Nathan. After some hugs and more pictures, we said our goodbyes and headed off toward the merchandise tent. 

I was able to buy a "I Did It!" Goofy Challenge shirt and Matthew and I picked up a few commemorative pins for the 25th anniversary weekend. I was grateful they still had merchandise for sale and that we didn't have to wait in a two hour line to look at it like we would have had to at the expo. 

Newly purchased items in tow, we headed back to French Quarter exhausted but elated. The marathon was over. We survived. 

Not the best finisher photo, but it captures the spirit of this finish.

Even now, weeks later, I am still processing my thoughts about this race. I'll probably write another post with some final thoughts in the next few weeks, once I wrap my head around all my feelings. I always get this way after a marathon- super reflective and emotional. Running brings all my emotions to the surface, in a good, cathartic way. 

Running with Jim and Matthew was a total blast- there really is nothing better than running with friends. I mean, how can you not bond over running 26.2 miles together and living to tell the tale?!

Even though parts of this race were painful, even though parts of it were boring, even though parts of it were stupid challenging, I wouldn't change a thing about this race experience. Marathon number four was hard, fun, empowering, uplifting, challenging, and about a thousand other emotions. I wouldn't want it any other way. 

I think I'll end this post with one final picture- one that captures what the marathon is like for me. 

The marathon is a always a question- do you have what it takes to endure? And while I might look nervous, and I might be scared, I know at the end of the race- I will be victorious. I will finish. 

Thank you WDW Marathon, for 25 years of helping runners endure to the finish line. Here's to the next 25!